Industrial - Honours

Enhancing the Work-Life Balance of Home Teleworkers

The Project aims to improve the work experience of people engaged in information work at home. It was found through the development of the final design that sustainable productivity was very much linked to individual personal care. The final developed product is Work Buddy, a smart desk device that encourages regular breaks away from the workspace and aids users to breathe calmly through self-regulation of their breath.

Context and general issue

Addressing stressors to avoid workburnout in a highly flexible work environment

Home teleworking brings about the benefits of highly flexible work scheduling, findings from primary research show that this can cause the demarcations between home and work life to blur. As a consequence, home teleworkers at times are unable to optimally segment work, personal care and other home responsibilities.

Difficulty detaching from work can cause a decrease in the quality of other home activities and personal care. This difficulty can be due to several reasons including work complications, deadlines, and high workload. It is important that home teleworkers address the varietal of stressors experienced during information work however minute they might be. This is vital in preventing a cumulative build of stress that causes work burnout. Long hours at the desk should also be avoided.

The solution to sustainable productivity

The solution on a macro level aims to facilitate a sustainable workflow for users by creating structure in work-life boundaries, providing opportunities for stress management and promoting self-care through awareness of the user’s physiological condition. The product aims to help users achieve this through breath regulation and regular movements away from the workspace, these two aspects were chosen as they were easy to grasp, easy to execute and highly effective in addressing stressors to eliminate work burnout.

The System/ How it works

The product monitors user’s breath rate and movement through Buddy Tag, a wearable pendent worn at chest height. Based on existing technology, Buddy Tag maps 3 dimensional movements of users through the use of sensors such as accelerometer, magnetometer and gyroscope.
This data is communicated to Work Buddy which nudges users to be more aware of their physiological condition and practice good habits of self-care such as calm breathing and regular breaks while working.

home telework with work buddy


It was important that the interactions between work buddy and user were discreet and non-intrusive to not detract from their focus of work. Overt notifications were employed only when absolutely necessary.

Smart Alerts

Work Buddy marks off proactive breaks by detecting the user’s movement away from the workspace and calculates the next interval for the user’s break. Work Buddy being connected to work devices at setup will remain silent during phone calls or zoom meetings.

Users can opt to integrate their schedules through their electronic calendar to allow Work Buddy to better time break intervals for users. For example, delaying movement break alerts by an additional 10 minutes to allow users to wrap up work tasks in their scheduled activity block.

Peripheral view & breath regulation

Work buddy glows in color (of users choosing via a supporting app) to indicate prolonged erratic breathing of user which can either be above or below user’s resting rate. This discreetly notifies users to put attention on their breath and breathe calmly.

Haptic and Visual guided breathwork

Breathwork is an efficient and direct means for users to address their stress and reset. Through the use of a curved OLED screen and a haptic motor, visual and haptic outputs allow users to engage breathwork with open or closed eyes in a relaxed manner. The detachable spherical form while comfortable to hold also allows the activity to be done at a comfortable spot away from the workspace.

Time Blocks

Mental preparation was identified as key in allowing users to switch between work and home/personal activities seamlessly. The time blocks displayed by Work Buddy to allow users to effectively wrap up tasks and prepare for their due interval break.

externalizing user’s condition through animated expressions

Work Buddy will appear happy when breaks are taken on time, while postponing breaks causes Work Buddy to appear sad and progressively distressed to convey a sense of impending work burnout. In this way, Work Buddy playfully externalizes the user’s physiological condition and promotes awareness for self-care. Facial expressions were designed to be universal in nature, it was found that a neutral aesthetic in this case appealed to a wider range of users and provided clarity in meaning.

Supporting App

A supporting app guides user through the setup and use of Work Buddy. Here users can link existing schedules in calendars, reflect on their breath to daily activity history and customize for individual use.

Materials + Manufacturing

Buddy Tag

Buddy Tag is made to be detachable via a magnetic connection to allow the lanyard to be machine washed.
Injection molded Polypropylene was chosen for its skin safe properties and recyclability. Buddy tag utilizes inductive wireless charging.

Work Buddy


Work Buddy is injection molded in 2 parts. For future maintenance, Work Buddy was designed to be assembled by screw thread like a bottle cap. Both parts are made from frosted polycarbonate for impact resistance and overmolded with clear silicone. Silicone was chosen for its hypoallergenic properties and is pleasant to touch. A spherical form ensures that it is comfortable to be held.

Work Buddy utilizes inductive wireless charging and a single curved OLED screen. A single push button serves to activate the functions of Bluetooth pairing, snooze + do not disturb modes and power on/off.

Charging Base


Made from injection molded polycarbonate, the charging base is equipped with programmable brushless DC motors and omni wheels which facilitate the animations of Work Buddy. Correct orientation of Work Buddy to users is facilitated with data from the gyroscope of Work Buddy in relation to sensors in buddy tag. A core piece aligns induction charging coils to facilitate wireless charging of Work Buddy and Buddy Tag.

John Yuan Sen Looi

Passionate about improving people's quality of life through design, John believes the best solutions are developed by truly understanding and caring for the user. As a designer John is curious, enjoys creative collaboration and believes the learning never ends.